Mick Flynn,
The Love of the Land
(self-produced, 1993)

There's a personal tale behind this little-known artist -- little-known outside Ireland anyway.

My son and I met Michael Eamon O Floinn, better known as Mick Flynn, at McGann's Pub in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland, during a packed Saturday night session in September 2000. At one point, one of the musicians, called Mick out of the crowd. As Mick made his way to the musicians' corner, the bodhran player seated nearby said "Now you're in for a treat. This man's a legend."

Using a borrowed bodhran, he brought that goatskin back to life with several energetic numbers. At times he interrupted his playing to recite some of his poems in a voice made gravelly, no doubt, by many evenings in peat-smokey, Guinness-fumed pubs. When Flynn dropped the stick, few in the audience noticed, so smooth was the transition to using just his fingers. Then he asked for another stick and the bodhran player seated next to me practically went into ecstasy. "He's the only person who can play the bodhran using two sticks in one hand."

Whether that boast is true or not, I do not know. All I know is that I, along with the rest of the audience, was transfixed by his virtuosity and the emotional intensity he brought to the instrument.

Later, I approached this legend and told him how much I enjoyed his playing. He took both my hands and in a solemn voice said, "To me, playing the bodhran is like praying." If so, Michael Eamon O Floinn is a modern-day saint destined to occupy the upper echelons of Irish hagiography.

The next day while I was almost drowning during a trip to Inishere, the smallest of the Aran Islands, my son came across a hard-to-find copy of Mick Flynn's CD The Love of the Land. Bless the lad: he bought it for me.

This recording is a showcase for all of Flynn's talents. He is not just a bodhran player; he sings and recites, plays the guitar, pennywhistle and flute. Of the 15 tracks on this CD, Mick wrote eight and had a hand in arranging the other seven. I was not familiar with any of the numbers before hearing this CD, but after listening to the likes of "Crystal Morn," "Ballyfermot" and "County Mayo," I have a better sense of what it means to be Irish. This is not a paean to Celtic heroes; it is a tribute to the pathos of common man and his land.

If you're lucky enough to come across this recording, don't expect a slick, near perfect production; it sounds as if it was recorded in a kitchen or an empty school hall. The voice is pure Ireland -- one with a true "Love of the Land."

[ by Bill Knapp ]